If you've driven by the New Bedford School Department building recently, you may have seen a gathering of protestors lined up across County Street. Those are the NBPS paraprofessionals, who after years of working for substandard wages and in unfair working conditions are demanding a better deal from the school department.

A paraprofessional is an educator who plays a pivotal role in the growth and development of our students during their formative years by carrying out instructional, behavioral, and other needs of students inside and outside of the classroom. As a sibling of a former public school student with ASD, I can speak personally to the critical importance of a paraprofessional in carrying out IEPs and 504 plans to ensure students with disabilities have access to the same education that typically developing students do.

I was interested in learning more about the New Bedford paras' contract dispute with the school department, so I invited a representative from their union, the New Bedford Federation of Paraprofessionals, to the program. The union's treasurer, Michelle Willis, offered a very candid description of the plight of New Bedford paraprofessionals that left me and much of the listening audience aghast.

Willis read aloud on air a dauntingly long list of responsibilities that paras are expected to master, discussed their reprehensibly low wages, and other shocking revelations of the conditions that they are expected to work under. You can listen to the full conversation here:

Marcus Ferro is the host of The Marcus Ferro Show airing Saturdays on 1420 WBSM from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Contact him at marcusferrolaw@gmail.com. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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